/

Three murderers sent to the gallows

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Three death-row inmates were hanged Thursday, in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, the first executions carried out under the new Liberal Democratic Party-led government.

According to the Justice Ministry, the three were Kaoru Kobayashi, 44, who kidnapped and killed a 7-year-old girl; Masahiro Kanagawa, 29, who went on a stabbing spree in Ibaraki Prefecture; and Keiki Kano, 62, who robbed and killed a bar owner.

Kobayashi, a repeat sex offender, was executed in Osaka for the murder of a 7-year-old girl he abducted while she was on her way home from school in Nara Prefecture in November 2004. He molested her before drowning her in his bathtub. After attempting to have sex with the body, he mutilated it by pulling out 10 of the girl’s teeth. The newspaper deliveryman also threatened the girl’s parents, claiming he would come after the girl’s younger sister and emailing a photo of their daughter’s corpse.

Kobayashi’s death sentence in 2006 was rare considering there was only one murder victim. But the Nara District Court ruled there were no extenuating circumstances to consider.

Kanagawa was hanged at the Tokyo Detention House for going on a stabbing spree outside a shopping mall in Tsuchiura, killing one and wounding seven in March 2008. He was also found guilty of a separate murder a few days before. After the arrest, he was quoted as saying that he “wanted to kill many people to be sentenced to death” and that it didn’t matter who they were.

Kano, formerly known as Keiki Muto, was hanged in Nagoya for the robbery-murder of a 61-year-old bar owner, whom he strangled and took ¥8,000 from in 2002. His original sentence of life imprisonment was later reversed and he was sentenced to death.

“All of these cases were extremely brutal — the precious lives of the victims were robbed for very selfish reasons,” Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said at a hastily arranged news conference following the executions Thursday morning. “Naturally, the courts ultimately handed down death sentences for the cases after thorough consideration. I decided to order the executions after carefully going over all of the various aspects.”

Even as much of the world turns away from the death penalty, Tanigaki made clear he has no intention for now of reviewing the system. He insisted any debate over capital punishment should be based on Japan’s “domestic situation,” including public sentiment and maintaining public order, rather than movements beyond Japan’s borders.

“I am aware that there have been various debates over the death penalty, whether people are for or against it. But our nation has maintained this system from the viewpoint of deterrence, and the sentiment of the victims’ families,” Tanigaki said. “If there are problems, we must make improvements.”

Before the trio were executed, there were 137 people on death row, an all-time high.

According to Amnesty International Japan, 140 nations have abolished capital punishment by law or in practice. Japan and the United States are the only two Group of Eight member states to keep the system. However, Hideki Wakabayashi, the executive director of AIJ, noted that U.S. states in general are moving toward either abolishing the death penalty or calling a moratorium on it.

“Japan is the only country that is in total isolation with no discussions on the death penalty moving forward. . . . (Thursday’s executions) ignore the international trend toward abolishing the death penalty. Japan needs to balance diplomacy as well as human rights issues as a responsible member of the international community,” Wakabayashi told The Japan Times.

  • orthotox

    “Japan is one of only a few advanced countries that still has capital punishment.” Hang in there, Japan!

  • Myriam Alberti

    The
    death penalty is unbefitting of a civilized society. Sadly, the United
    States and Japan are the only industrialized nations, to use capital
    punishment. High technology and third world country rules, what a deadly
    combination.
    No matter how you defend or support it, capital
    punishment is morally wrong. To deliberately kill someone who has been
    captured and no longer poses a direct threat to society is murder.
    Capital punishment gives the government the legal right to commit first-degree murder
    and
    everybody knows that death penalty is in no way, shape or form a
    deterrent. The argument that it is a deterrent is totally false.

    • Adam H

      Capital punishment is useless as a deterrent and it’s completely useless as a form of rehabilitation. However, as much as I dislike it, I can understand its use for cases where the criminal refuses to, or is unable to, reform and is determined to continue to commit crimes whenever possible. In that unlikely situation, it would be better for society to just “cull” those people rather than waste resources keeping them alive and locked up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1175531659 Alice Kell

    Too bad Amnesty International isn’t as concerned for the human rights of the victims as it is of the murderers.

    • Mike DeJong

      Alice, I’m sure AI is concerned for their human rights too. But how will these executions bring them back?

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.f.sommers Charles F. Sommers

    Tanigaki should read a little history and then explain how in Japan the death penalty was phased out completely in the Heian period and was not used for the next 300 years but Japan seemed to have functioned well without it.

  • 1mpala

    Even those who support judicial killing must pause at the thought that no criminal justice system in the world is perfect and mistakes will always be made.
    In capital cases a mistake means an innocent person dies. These three don’t fall into this category, it seems. But the risk of killing someone who had nothing to do with the crime is surely reason enough to abolish the death penalty, even for such heinous offenders as these. In Japan’s case, the 99% conviction rate of cases brought to court and police tactics of forcing/exhausting the accused into confessions, is added reason not continue this barbaric practice. Toshikazu Sugaya, the bus driver released last year after 17 years of wrongful imprisonment, was shouted at, kicked and bullied into confessing the killing of a 4 year old girl, by the police. If his had been a capital case, no subsequent DNA evidence could have saved him from the noose. Stephen Carr

  • 1mpala

    Even those who support judicial killing must pause at the thought that no criminal justice system in the world is perfect and mistakes will always be made.
    In capital cases a mistake means an innocent person dies. These three don’t fall into this category, it seems. But the risk of killing someone who had nothing to do with the crime is surely reason enough to abolish the death penalty, even for such heinous offenders as these. In Japan’s case, the 99% conviction rate of cases brought to court and police tactics of forcing/exhausting the accused into confessions, is added reason not continue this barbaric practice. Toshikazu Sugaya, the bus driver released last year after 17 years of wrongful imprisonment, was shouted at, kicked and bullied into confessing the killing of a 4 year old girl, by the police. If his had been a capital case, no subsequent DNA evidence could have saved him from the noose.

  • Makoto Genchi

    Well, It might be a good idea to make the murderers work for the public benefit during their life imprisonment instead of hanging them. If they don`t just live on the tax-payer`s money, but wish to work when in prison, they should be given such a possibility.

  • Michael Williams

    Where I went to college, a 22 year old college student, Dru Sjodin, was beaten, stabbed, raped, then murdered by Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr; a convicted rapist. The terror she went through grew to torment and torture; hope faded into despair, she was violently beaten and raped, her life ended violently as she was stabbed several times and had her throat slit from ear to ear. What she went through was hell on Earth. The man who did it to her, is not human by any moral standard; he is a devilish monster waiting in line to have his life taken from him from brutally taking the life of his victim.

    To say that capital punishment is state sanctioned murder is absurd. To say that executing those who commit premeditated murder is equal to their evil deeds they exacted on their victims, such as the story above or that of the three who hung in gallows, is completely delusional.

    Objections to capital punishment are based upon the vague guise of modern morality and political correctness; it is your own justification to blind yourself into thinking that everyone is worth saving regardless of their heinous deeds. Such is the ramblings of a mad fool who does not realize that their baseless opinion is as pointless as planting waterlilies on dry land or whispering in the ear of the deaf.

  • 1mpala

    These three committed barbaric crimes and there is no doubt about their guilt, it seems. However, not all cases are so clear cut. No criminal justice system is perfect and mistakes can result in the judicial killing of innocents. Any risk of executing the wrong person is surely reason enough for doing away with the death penalty. Toshikazu Sugaya, the school bus driver accused in 1991 of the murder of a four year old girl, was shouted at by police so loudly it permanently damaged his hearing, kicked and bullied by them into a confession during a 13 hour interrogation. He was then wrongfully imprisoned for 17 years. Finally freed in 2009, he was exonerated and compensated after a DNA test proved him innocent. Had his case been a capital one, he would not have escaped the noose. Executions of those who were in fact not guilty, have happened many times in many places around the world. These appalling injustices, few as they may be, relative to guilty convictions, are not worth the revenge that hangings afford crime victim relatives. They are never worth it, not even at the price of sparing the lives of criminals as heinous as those hanged in Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo on Thursday. Stephen Carr, Tokishi.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arashi-Stormlover-Arashistormlover/100001314863402 Arashi Stormlover Arashistorml

    A better punishment would be life with no possibility of parole and forced labor for a good cause related to the crime they committed. 3 problems with capital punishment: (1) its more expensive than life imprisonment due to appeals system (2) statistically, some innocents will inevitably be killed, generally poor or borderline retarded (3) we dont know what happens when people die (!)